One More Hook
D. E. Larsen, DVM
We had just turned out the lights in the clinic and headed to the front door on a bright Saturday afternoon.
“We should have plenty of time to run up to Lost Lake and do a little fishing this afternoon,” I said to Sandy.
Before she could reply, we were caught at the door. Kelly and a couple of friends came through the door with his black lab.
“I was hoping we would catch you before you closed this afternoon,” Kelly said. “The lights are out, but the door is still unlocked.”
“What do you have, Kelly?” I asked.
“Bob here,” Kelly said, pointing at his dog. “He did pretty well for the trip down the river. Until we were putting the poles up. I let one of those shiny spoons dangle on the end of the line for a minute. It was just too much for him. Now he has a big steelhead hook buried in his upper lip.”
“That should be something that I can take care of and still have time to take the kids fishing up at Lost Lake.”
We took Bob back to the surgery room and picked him up onto the table. The silver spoon dangled from the left side of his mouth. I reached to lift his upper lip, but Bob turned his head away, and I could hear of a low rumble in his throat.
“I’m not so sure that Bob wants to do this rapidly,” I said.
“I can hold him for you,” Kelly said as he moved in behind Bob and grabbed him on each side of his neck, close to his ears.
“That might work, but I think I am going to put a gauze muzzle on him,” I said. “When I put some lidocaine into that lip, it isn’t going to be very fun.”
Kelly held Bob, shaking his head slightly when he growled.
“No, Bob! No.”
I took a three-foot length of a bandage roll gauze and made a loop in the middle with one throw of a knot. Then, with Kelly holding Bob’s head firmly, I slipped the noose over his nose and maneuvered it past the dangling silver spoon. When it was in position, I tightened the loop on the top of his muzzle. Then I crossed the gauze on the underside of Bob’s jaw, making a throw there and pulling that tight before tying the ends behind his head with a bow knot.
“Now, if he wants to argue with us, at least his teeth are locked up for a couple of minutes,” I said as I lifted his upper lip.
Bob now growled to show his disapproval. There was a number four steelhead hook on the business end of the spoon. It was buried to the bend in the dense tissue of the upper lip. I could not feel the tip of the hook from either side. I had to assume it running parallel to the skin surface.
“The only thing that is going to hurt is the injection lidocaine,” I explained to Kelly. “It stings a little, especially when we inject it into dense tissue like we have in this upper lip. So hold tight for a moment.”
I injected the area surrounding the hook with lidocaine. Kelly held tight, and Bob growled and tried his best to shake his head.
“There, now everything should be easy,” I said. “We should let this soak a moment, and then I should be able to pop that hook out with no problem. My plan is to cut the tip with the barb off after pushing it out of the tissue. You don’t mind losing the hook, I hope.”
“No problem, there are plenty more where this one came from,” Kelly said.
“Did you guys catch anything today?” I asked as we waited.
“We have one summer steelhead in the boat. We had another one on for quite a while, but there was a lot of excitement in the boat when it got close, and we ended up knocking it off the hook with the net.”
I grabbed the hook with a pair of needle holders and wiggled it. There was no response from Bob. I gave it a firm twist and push forward, and the barbed tip popped out through the mucus membranes of the inside of the upper lip. I snipped the barbed end of the hook off with my wire cutter and quickly removed the hook.
I flushed the tract left by the hook with Betadine and gave Bob an injection of antibiotics. When I removed the gauze muzzle, and Kelly relaxed his grip, Bob licked my hand. That is probably the closest thing to a thank you that I have received from any patient.
“That wasn’t bad, I might have to hurry a little, but I can still get some fishing in at the lake.”
“Oh,” Kelly said, “We have one more hook for you to look at and see if you can help us.”
“One more hook,” I said. “What, you have another dog in the boat?”
“No, I told you about the excitement in the boat,” Kelly said as he pulled the collar down on one of his friends.
Another hook, another number 4 steelhead hook, was buried to its bend in the back of his neck.
“Can you get this one for us?” Kelly asked.
“No, I can’t touch that one,” I said. “I maybe would, but I don’t think I could get a muzzle on him. I think you have to go to a real doctor for that one.”
“We just wanted to ask,” Kelly said. “Actually, we trust you a lot more than the real doctors.”
“They will do okay, probably do pretty much what I did with Bob. It should be easier since the tissue is a lot softer. And remember, the only thing that will hurt is the lidocaine.”
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